Five States Issue Emergency Commercial Vehicle Orders

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky Suspend Some Trucking Rules in Idalia's Aftermath
Flooded Keaton Beach, Fla.
An aerial photo provided by shows storm damage in Keaton Beach, Fla., following the passage of Hurricane Idalia on Aug. 30. (Associated Press/Rebecca Blackwell)

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Florida and four other states issued emergency waivers for commercial motor vehicles that remain in effect for varying periods up to a month to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.

Idalia hit the northeast side of Florida on Aug. 30 as a Category 3 hurricane swirling toward the Southeastern U.S. coastline.

AUG. 31 UPDATE: Florida Starts to Recover as Idalia Rain Hits North Carolina

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued two emergency waivers for commercial motor vehicles, and certain hours-of-service requirements and size/weight restrictions were lifted. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky posted similar orders Aug. 29.

After Idalia made landfall near Keaton Beach, where the Florida Panhandle curves around the Gulf of Mexico, it brought maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, downed trees, flooded roads and spun off tornadoes.

Seaports in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas issued short-term closure notices that were set to expire after the storm passed.

Georgia’s emergency order declaration suspending federal hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers bringing needed goods and services, including fuel, is set to expire Sept. 8.

South Carolina’s Executive Order No. 2023-29 for the storm suspends commercial vehicle requirements regarding registration, permitting, length, width, weight and load while traveling on non-interstate routes for up to 120 days if those vehicles have a gross weight of no more than 90,000 pounds and are no wider than 12 feet. Federal hours-of-service requirements for drivers of commercial and utility vehicles traveling on interstate and non-interstate routes are suspended for up to 30 days unless extended.

For North Carolina, Executive Order No. 284, expiring Sept. 28, was issued to cope with storm damage, such as power outages, that would require vehicles bringing in equipment and supplies for utility restoration and debris removal from interstates and state highways. Temporary suspensions waived enforcement of certain size and weight restrictions and registration requirements for vehicles supporting emergency relief efforts on designated routes.

Anticipating tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and damaging winds, Kentucky’s emergency order (to expire Sept. 30) suspends hours-of-service regulations for commercial vehicles assisting in emergency efforts. It also waives stopping at all weigh stations for commercial vehicles responding to the affected areas and mandates drivers to have a copy of the order in the vehicle cab.

In effect in Florida is Executive Order 23-171, which expires Oct. 25, containing numerous exemptions related to emergency relief. It temporarily suspends enforcement of registration requirements for commercial motor vehicles entering Florida to provide emergency services/supplies, transport emergency equipment, supplies or personnel or bring Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile homes/office-style mobile homes into or out of the state.

It waives hours-of-service requirements and size/weight restrictions for divisible loads on any vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services, supplies and agricultural commodities (such as citrus fruit) recommended by the state agriculture commissioner. It also allows state officials to create alternate size and weight restrictions for all such vehicles during the emergency.

However, the order does not authorize any vehicle to exceed weight limits posted for bridges and similar structures or relieve any vehicle/motor carrier, owner or driver from complying with any restrictions other than those listed in the orders.

Enforcement is suspended for licensing/registration requirements under the International Fuel Tax Agreement for motor carriers or drivers operating commercial motor vehicles that are properly registered in other jurisdictions and helping in emergency relief efforts by transporting emergency equipment, supplies or services.

Drivers delivering essential commodities for the public to an area under a state of emergency may travel within evacuated areas and exceed curfews if approved by state emergency officials.

Expiring Sept. 25, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Emergency Order No. 082623 declared a state of emergency and waived hours-of-service requirements for motor carriers and drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle to provide emergency relief during the storm emergency. It also waived registration requirements for commercial vehicles entering Florida to help with storm relief efforts.

Drivers also must operate according to Florida traffic laws and “remain alert, attentive and free of impairment, fatigue, illness, distraction or similar cause that would reduce the driver’s ability to safely operate the commercial motor vehicle.”

Providing direct emergency help ends when a driver or commercial motor vehicle hauls cargo unrelated to Florida storm relief. Upon termination of emergency assistance, no motor carrier shall require or allow any driver used by it to drive until after that driver has met federal requirements for interstate commerce and Florida state laws for intrastate commerce.

“Motor carriers or drivers who are directly or indirectly subject to a current out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for the order’s rescission and the order has been rescinded by the Florida Highway Patrol, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or the jurisdiction that issued the out-of-service order, whichever is applicable,” the order cautions.

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